Give thanks. Seems simple enough. As I allow my mind to enter into a space of gratitude, the things for which I am grateful come easy enough at first.
- A safe roof over my head
- Family who loves and cares for me unconditionally
- Friends who stick by be no matter what
- My job
But then I find myself stuck. I dig deeper.
- Clean water out of my sink
- The freedom to worship without fear
- Crisp autumn leaves still crunchy on the ground
- A flickering candle next to me as I write
- Co-workers who have become dear friends
- A warm bed with a heavenly soft quilt
- My iPhone which just allowed two sweet friends to FaceTime me to wish me a “Happy Thanksgiving”
- The rain that makes everything green and the air that smells of fresh, wet pine
- Safe & warm hugs from parents who have in recent years become friends
- The vulnerability of a friend who encouraged me and reminded that me I’m not alone
- A soft and oh-so-cozy sweater I just layered on
- A four-day weekend of rest
- Time to breathe deeply
- A ticking clock that reminds me that life and time go on even when at times I lose perspective
- A tummy full of warm soup and a hot roll from lunch
- Red nails that remind me of sweet time spent with a friend last Sunday
- The anticipation of seeing dear friends for a celebration in just a couple weeks
I’ve been learning to give thanks. Learning. It’s been a process for me. As many of you know, I’ve been in a season of illness for the last four years now. Can’t believe it’s been that long. It’s easy to give thanks when all is well, but when struggle and suffering come, it can seem impossible.
To give thanks in everything, means a totally altered perspective. It’s something I’ve longed for. How can I be thankful for today? But more importantly, how can I be thankful when I’m lying in bed in pain for days on end?
First came the desire for a new perspective. I was exhausted by my ingratitude. I longed for fresh air. For a crack in the window. I felt suffocated by sorrow.
I recently began reading a book called “One Thousand Gifts,” by Ann Voskamp. She is a farmer’s wife in Canada and lives a sweet and simple life.
I’d heard a lot about the book and frankly it was all untrue. I was told, “Kristina, you should read this book, it will help you to be grateful.” Two years ago when I was lying in a hospital bed, I laughed at the idea. Be grateful?! For what? The IV that’s pumping my body with foreign toxins? Or for the botched procedure yesterday? Or for the fact that I’m lying in a hospital bed in the middle of the country where I know no one? The cold metal bed and scratchy sheets? For which one of these things should I be grateful?
Learning to live a life with a grateful heart is a process, a journey.
I see that now. It’s not a pool you can jump in. It’s a mountain that you climb over a lifetime.
Step by step, downpour after downpour and sunrise after sunrise. It’s an altered perspective. It takes time. The book doesn’t “help you be grateful.” It tears down walls, gently takes your hand and like a tender mother, guides you along the beginnings of a new life perspective. It teaches you to slow down. To breathe. To breathe deeply and to acknowledge life and all that is around you.
Voskamp is also not at all what she seems. It is true that she is a farmer’s wife in Canada, but don’t let a Hallmark movie image roll into your mind. She is a strong and courageous woman. She has suffered greatly and understands what it’s like to hurt, to groan and also to give thanks.
Being the author, she’s much further along in this process than I am. While I am in a place when I’m learning to slow down and give thanks, I confess that I’m not yet at the place where I am giving thanks in all things.
Today, give thanks. Give thanks for who you’re with, for what you have.
For your next breath.
It’s all a gift. Whether or not you choose to see it is up to you.